Listening to the Atom String Quartet's AtomSphere (Kayax***1/2) it struck me how much a great deal of chamber jazz there is in the world today.
A good deal of it leaves me cold but when it soars it truly soars. I miss the Basquiats who briefly flickered gathered around the cello, recently the strings on Bruno Heinen’s Four Seasons project made me return to the jazz and strings area with relish, and now this fans the flames again.
Around for five years with Fade in and Places under their belts, acclaim in their homeland has been as unanimous as you can get and international guests such as Branford Marsalis and his fellow former Milesian Mino Cinelu (both on Decoy and above) have got to know the Atomic sound.
This double album, clips above, was recorded live over a few nights in southern Poland two years ago. Deadly serious music that is not too severe and makes you switch your brain on from the default smartphone-frazzled setting to really vibrate, there is a little improvising, a lot more in some places, but a lot of strict note following too, and yet there’s a lightness and joy on the appropriately ‘Happy’, a title that invites but does not admit a certain tweeness, and as the music develops a uniquely Polish sense of tragic melancholy grounded in both faith and just as often, a paradox, nihilistic despair.
Originals, many written by the cellist Krzysztof Lenczowski, are blended with a folk ballad, a Lutosławski étude and an arrangement of ‘Passion’ by Zbiggy Seifert, who the locals thought of in his day as a Coltrane of the violin. One CD would have been enough, so cherry pick ruthlessly for best results and impact but really this is as much for classical heads as jazz fans, par for the course with a lot of chamber jazz no matter how absorbingly it is conveyed as it is so vividly here.
Manchester Jazz Festival website booking link